AFCCA announced that it is [granting a government motion for reconsideration] and vacating the [en banc] decision in United States v. Witt and that the full court will now [re-consider] the case, Air Force Times coverage here. [The en banc] court previously set aside Airman Witt’s death sentence due to errors in the trial defense counsel’s investigation of potential sentencing evidence. Prior coverage of AFCCA’s decision in Witt here and now vacated AFCCA decision here. [Updated to reflect that prior decision was en banc, which a knowledgeable source pointed out to me]
A former Marine Corps’ staff sergeant received a five year sentence from a federal district judge in San Diego. Gilbert Mendez was convicted of receiving bribes in exchange for awarding contracts to local companies while assigned to Camp Fallujah. San Diego Union-Tribune report here.
The House passed a bill to create a commission to study backlogged VA claims reports Military Times:
Over Veterans Affairs Department objections, the House passed a bill Monday night creating a commission to evaluate new ways of reducing the backlog of veterans benefits claims, including new claims awaiting an initial decision and those where a veteran has appealed the decision.
VA officials argued, unsuccessfully, that a new commission or task force created by HR 2189 would slow down progress already being made.
Military Times article here.
A tipster notes an interesting panel at the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Sixth Annual Fall Institute this week, agenda here. At 4:00 pm on Oct. 31 at the Omni Shoreham (DC) (registration required) is this offering:
Does Our Military Justice System Need to Change?
The panel will discuss whether the commander should be relieved of the responsibility for the preferral of charges in the military justice system and, if so, what type of prosecutorial official should be substituted for the commander. Discussion will focus on how large a change this would be in the military, what other countries have done, and whether changes made by other countries could or should be a model for the United States.
The panel should have a healthy debate as it features NIMJ luminaries Stephen Saltzburg and Gene Fidell and John Altenburg and Dean Lisa Schenck.
In related news, the promotion of LTG Susan Helms is still on hold without any additional explanation from Capitol Hill. See Air Force Times coverage here. You’ll recall that General Helms nomination to head Space Command was put on hold after Sen Claire McCaskilll discovered That General Helms ser aside a sexual assault conviction in her current role as head of the 4th Air Force. General Hwlms is one of the most decorated astronauts in the military and, new tact I didn’t know, holds the world’s record for longest space walk.
AP via the Honolulu Star Advertiser, here, reports here that Marine Corps Master Sergeant Nathaniel Cosby will be court-martialed for the murder of a prostitute in Waikiki.
A quick poll for our readers, would you follow posts about the ongoing court-martial of an AF major accused of various sexual touching offenses at Nellis AFB, here, and an Airman accused of child abuse/neglect related offenses after the death of the child of another servicrmember while he was shacking up with the guy’s wife during his deployment, here?
Fromt he WaPo, here, looks like one of two Mids facing court-martial for sexual assault has asked a the same US District Court judge in Maryland to disqualify the Supe as did the victim’s counsel, coverage here. According to the Post story, the CA’s bias is evidenced by the fact that he referred the case after both the Art. 32 hearing officer and his SJA recommended against it.
The USCG has gotten into the CO firing sweepstakes, Navy Times report here, removing a cutter CO for poor command climate. Reminds me a bit of this scene from the movie Crimson Tide:
Capt. Ramsey: It looks like the whole crew needs a kick in the ass.
Hunter: Or a pat on the back, sir. I just witnessed a fight down in crew’s mess, no big deal. It appears that the crew is a bit on edge about all we’re going through. Morale seems a bit low.
Capt. Ramsey: [picks up the intercom and speaks into it] May I have your attention please, crew of the Alabama, Mr. Hunter has brought it to my attention that morale maybe a bit low. and you might be a bit… [looks to Hunter]
Hunter: [whispers] On edge.
Capt. Ramsey: [over the intercom] On edge. so, I suggest this. Any crew member who thinks that they can’t handle the situation, can leave the ship right now. Gentlemen, we are at DEFCON three, war is imminent. This is the captain. That is all. [hangs up the intercom]
Hunter: Very inspiring, sir.
The military has changed since those days.
Op-ed coverage of the USNA sexual assault case here (Forbes) and here.
Here is Navy Times coverage of the Navy’s relief of Vice Admiral Tim Giardina as Deputy at STRATCOM amid an NCIS investigation into the Admiral’s alleged use of fake gambling chips at an Iowa casino.
Four senior enlisted and a warrant Officer will face special court-martial charges for their alleged derelictions related to the death of two divers at a facility at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Baltimore Sun report here and Navy Times coverage of the mast refusal here.
Here is LA Times coverage of the murder of a soldier at JBLM by five fellow soldiers:
Three soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state have been arrested in connection with the stabbing death of another soldier and police said they are no longer investigating the killing as a hate crime as race does not appear to be the motive, authorities said Monday.
The three soldiers were booked into the Pierce County Jail on Monday and are being held in connection with the killing of Tevin Geike, 20, the Lakewood Police Department said in a statement emailed to reporters. Formal charges are pending.
Three suspects were identified as: Jeremiah Hill, 23; Cedarium Johnson, 21; and Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21. The trio were active-duty soldiers assigned to a combat infantry unit. The victim was also an active-duty Lewis-McChord soldier, assigned to a combat aviation unit, officials said.
Originally, police had said that the slain soldier, who was white, had been killed in what was being investigated as a racially motivated attack by five black men.
After much bruhaha, Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson–of Art. 60, UCMJ fame–will retire this week, and possibly as Major reports Stars and Stripes here.
AP reports on the militia related murder by a Ft. Stewart soldier here:
A Georgia soldier accused of funding an anti-government militia group with insurance money from his pregnant wife’s death will face a court-martial on charges that he killed her.
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said Wednesday commanders decided to try Pvt. Isaac Aguigui on charges of premeditated murder after reviewing evidence from a July preliminary hearing. Prosecutors say the soldier’s pregnant wife, Sgt. Deirdre Aguigui, was bound with handcuffs when she died from lack of oxygen, likely from being choked, in July 2011.
Agugui already has one LWOP sentence from a civilian court for the murder of a defector from his militia group and could get another at court-martial, the case was not referred capitally.
Here (AP via ABC News) is coverage of US District Judge Ellen Hollander’s decisin from the bench today declining to intervene in the court-martial of three former USNA football players at the request of the alleged victim’s counsel, Susan Burke. She reportedly stated, “I think for me to stick my nose in the Navy’s business right now would be a far cry from appropriate.”
Burke sought to have the court remove [USNA Superintendent VADM Mike] Miller from deciding whether the case of the three former football players, Tra’ves Bush, Josh Tate and Eric Graham, proceeds to a court-martial. She contends the superintendent is biased against her client because he thinks the case reflects badly on the academy and his leadership.
“He’s angry at the victim for speaking out,” Burke said.
Hollander noted that Burke went straight to federal court, without first seeking relief in the separate military system. The judge said Burke was asking the court to “micromanage the investigation.” She also said the request “trivializes the importance” of having a separate military justice system.
From CAAF’s daily journal on Friday:
Misc. No. 14-8001/AR. Jeffrey A. SINCLAIR, Appellant v. United States of America, and James L. Pohl, Colonel, U.S. Army, Military Judge. CCA 20130751. On consideration of the writ-appeal petition, Appellant’s motion for a stay of proceedings, and motion to appear pro hac vice, said motion to appear pro hac vice is hereby granted, said motion for a stay of proceedings is hereby denied, and said petition is hereby denied without prejudice to Appellant’s right to raise the issues asserted during the course of normal appellate review.
This was, presumably, the defense appeal of the military judge’s denial of defense motions for relief from UCI (discussed here).
Here is a link to the Baltimore Sun article reporting that the Art. 32 report in the case of the three USNA midshipmen accused of sexual assault is now in the hands of the USNA Superintendent’s office. It also notes that a hearing in the US District Court action to disqualify the Supe is scheduled for Oct. 7.
From Marine Corps Times, here, the Corps is defending its actions against Maj Weirick saying that, essentially, after the Navy Yard tragedy they are extra sensitive to mental health issues and potential warning signs. But others that know Weirick felt otherwise:
Col. Robert “Butch” Bracknell, a Marine Corps attorney working in Alexandria, Va., said Weirick’s use of the third person in his email to Delorier was nothing more than an idiosyncrasy.
“I’ve known Weirick for about 15 years and he has always referred to himself in the third person. It’s his schtick,” Bracknell said. “It doesn’t mean he’s nuts. It just means he’s Weirick — eclectic, funny, awesome.”
Weirick’s attorney calls the Marine Corps Navy Yard excuse . . . an excuse:
The Navy Yard tragedy provided Weirick’s command with a convenient excuse to take drastic action against him, said Siegel, a retired Marine Corps colonel.
“I don’t believe in coincidences, and I think that’s what’s going on,” she said Tuesday. “It gives them a separate excuse for the public as to why they’re treating him this way.”
Lawfare blog coverage here of yesterday’s oral arguments in Al Bahlul v US. This is the case we’ve blogged about previously that centers on whether certain charges are recognized under the Law of War and thus the governing version of the Military Commissions Act after the DC Circuit’s decision in Hamdan II. Everyone has predicted the government would lose, including the military prosecutors on the case, here. Lawfare sums up things:
In a sense, today’s lengthy en banc D.C. Circuit argument in Al-Bahlul was unsurprising . . . in that it did not disturb what has by now become (we gather) a widely-shared view: the question probably isn’t whether the government is going to lose its appeal to the full circuit court. The question is, instead, how it will lose.
WaPo reports here that two Marine Corps’ generals have been relieved in the aftermath of a Sep. 2012 Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan that left two Marines dead and several Marine Corps’ aircraft destroyed. Security at Bastion, a British run air base that adjoins Camp Leatherneck, was primarily the responsibility of the Brits. From WaPo:
The British are responsible for guarding Bastion, . . . British commanders had assigned the task of manning the towers to troops from Tonga, which has sent 55 soldiers to Afghanistan.
On the night of the attack, the Tongans left unmanned the watchtower nearest to the Taliban breach, according to an investigation by the U.S. Central Command.
Other aspects of the U.S.-British security plan were “sub-optimal,” the investigation found, with no single officer in charge of security for both Bastion and Leatherneck. . . .
Troop reductions also affected security measures. When Gurganus took command in 2011, about 17,000 U.S. troops were in his area of operations. By the time of the attack, in September 2012, the American contingent had dropped to 7,400 . . . .
We haven’t reported on this as we were trying to gather some info. None being forthcoming, here is a link to a Marine Corps Times story about the disciplinary action being taken against Marine Corps lawyer Major Weirick. If you’ll recall from earlier posts, here and here, Maj. Weirick blew the whistle one alleged unlawful command influnce in the Marine Corps’ prosecution of the insurgent corpse desecration cases, actions that presumably led to charges being dismissed in at least one of the cases.
The Marine Corps has removed from his job a staff judge advocate who publicly accused Commandant Gen. Jim Amos of unlawful command influence in the high-profile cases against eight Marines prosecuted in connection with a war-zone video of scout snipers urinating on enemy corpses.
Maj. James Weirick was also placed under a Marine Corps Protective Order and asked to turn in his personal weapons and submit to a voluntary psychiatric evaluation.
Retired Marine Col. Jane Siegel, Weirick’s attorney, said he had been removed for cause from his post at Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va., following allegations of harassment via email.
. . . .
Siegel said the complaint centered on an email Weirick sent to Peter Delorier, one of Amos’ former civilian legal advisers. In the Sept. 21 email, reviewed by Marine Corps Times, Weirick pleads with Delorier, who now works at Camp Lejeune, N.C., to “come clean” about his role in the alleged manipulation of justice by the commandant’s office.
The “forced” psych eval is a bit much, I thought that went out of fashion 20 years ago as a way to label “troublemakers.”
DOJ has responded to the request by victim’s counsel to disqualify the USNA Superintendent from the role of convening authority in the high profile rape allegations againt three former USNA football team members. Brief here and prior coverage here, complaint here.
Not newsy, but here is an interesting story in the NCO Journal on the facilities at Ft. Leavenworth, the USDB and JRCF. H/t PL